Publishers Weekly, 2001-07-30 Palis Matos (1898-1959) will forever have a place in Puerto Rican literature as the poet who triggered a major shift in focus from the country's Spanish to its African heritage. Given this emphasis on Spain and the worldwide rise of the pseudoscience of eugenics, Palis Matos's poetry honoring African-based culture was daring and sparked controversy. This collection, his third and most famous book, was first published in 1937. A poet with no formal training, Palis Matos often used African words and onomatopoeia, producing verses that entrance us like the steady, quiet pounding of conga drums and then suddenly end with a bang. Besides the use of Afro-Puerto Rican words, he employs the African call-and-response pattern in poems like "Falsa Cancion de Baquine" ("False Song of Baquine"). While Palis Matos is clearly a master of his craft, his references to promiscuous mulatas and dancing Africans reflect romantic and stereotypical notions of blackness and sadly exoticize black Puerto Ricans and Africans, treating them as the "other." Contemporary Puerto Rican academics have highlighted the contradiction between his homage to African influence and his safariesque descriptions. Although the numerous African words might be unfamilar to some Spanish speakers, the poet's melodic flow keeps the reader from straying. A helpful vocabulary list is included. This fine collection will serve well in discussions about race and literary images of women. Recommended for bookstores and academic and public libraries with Afro-Latino literature collections. Erica Gonzalez, New York, NY (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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